I got to thinking today: what draws a writer to a genre? Is it the thought of a challenge? Of exploring something new? Is it that the familiarity of favorite reading material gives one the comfort and security to write in that genre (whatever it is) despite doubts and a lack of confidence?
I’m sure it varies from one writer to another, from one personality type to another. Some writers dabble in different genres, while others stick with one for their entire careers, over the span of years.
I can only speak for myself when it comes to this topic: I have written five novels, all leaning toward fantasy or blatant fantasy. None take place in the real world, all but one involves magic, and all involve a culture rather like the Renaissance or late Middle Ages in terms of technology. I always say I would like to branch out, try my hand at writing something set in the real world, but to this point, it’s been fantasy all the way. I have a trilogy and the start of a second in that genre already.
Why did I choose the genre I did? I think there are a lot of reasons.
- Magic. Magic is a big one. I love stories about magic, and I’ve always thought it would be the coolest thing ever to be able to fly like Peter Pan (which was one of my favorite movies as a kid.) My first novel is the only one I’ve written that didn’t involve magic. And a large part of me thinks that’s the reason it doesn’t really hold together. It’s missing something. It needs something to draw away from the melodrama that it is.
- Harry Potter. I can credit J.K. Rowling for introducing me to fantasy my freshman year of high school, in January 2000. I was hooked on the Harry Potter books from the very first one. Soon I dreamed of writing stories that might touch people to the core the way hers touched me. Her world was so expansive, so familiar and yet different from my own. Her characters absolutely enthralled me; they were so mysterious, but also, I felt somehow that I related to them. I read each book after that first one the day it came out, and I remember reading “Half Blood Prince” particularly (I got my copy before my sister got hers, and she was as obsessed with the books as me, so we read the first couple of chapters together, sitting on her bed, until one of her friends brought her copy to the house. I read faster, and I got really annoyed at having to wait for my sister to catch up each time before I could turn the page.)
- Escapism. I have always used reading as an escape from the real world. While any genre can function for that, I think fantasy works particularly well for me in that regard because there is such a distancing from my world and what I’m reading. When I started writing, that drive to “escape,” so to speak, stayed with me. So I chose fantasy.
I wonder if I ever will take the plunge and try something else…. I had an idea a while back for an absurdist piece about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, as I’m from there and love the area. Never wrote it, though, beyond a few pages. For now, I’m a fantasy girl, and I’m okay with that. It fulfills the creative drive in me. It quenches what thirst for adventure I have. Maybe a time will come when it no longer does so and I’ll scratch that itch to explore other possibilities, but for now, I’m excited at the prospect of final edits to my first trilogy (book 3), beginning to edit book 1 of the second, and seeing where else that story can take me.
So, you fellow writers: why do you write in your respective genres? Have you experimented with others? What were the results? I’d love to chat about this. Everyone approaches these decisions so differently when it comes time to start designing a new project!